THE POLITICAL PAGE

JULY 2003

 

The European Constitution

(The reference to God in the preamble)

 

Information (update 01.07.03)

 

1. The conventional committee of 105 people, under the presidency of the Frenchman, Valery Giscard d’ Estaing, has labored for nearly 1 1/2 years to present a draft for a European Constitution to the government heads in Thessalonica.  It was passed on 13th June at the convention and will now be considered in the national governments for 6-8 months; to come again in the Spring 2004 before the European Parliament to be amended and passed.  This version will then be ratified by the national parliaments and becomes then effective.  If possible, this should happen before the European elections in May 2004 and the entrance of 10 new nations.

 

This lengthy procedure has been and will be taken to ensure that maximum democracy and transparency are brought to the process of shaping public opinion.  That 15 states actually allow themselves to be brought to follow one course, with one constitution that binds them so tightly together - this has never happened before.  In the past, there were nations and unions formed through conquests and coercion (Roman Empire; USSR).  However, a union of this magnitude - in 2004 - 25 nations! - in peace for peace has never existed. This is a historical milestone!!

The new constitution shall clarify (a) how citizens live together, (b) the relationship between the national governments and the Central European Authorities in Brussels, as well as, (c) the responsibilities and functions of individual committees and organs. The convention has put forth a proposal.  It will still be amended although most probably, it will keep its present form.

In this issue of The Political Page I do not wish to consider the structural agreements in depth, which naturally would be the focus of a political perspective; rather I wish to concentrate on a special religious point: the “reference to God” in the constitution.  This was not a secondary matter, neither at the convention nor in the European Parliament -  rather, as one observer put it - the “hit”, that is a highly debated issue.

 

2. The reference to God

 

The question is whether, in the preamble (foreword) of the constitution, God should be clearly mentioned as in, for example, the German constitution ( “in responsibility before God and man”).

Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer, who represented Germany at the convention, spoke out clearly for a reference to God in the preamble, which is meaningful since he needs a majority in Europe to become the first European Foreign Minister; the reference to God is, however, not popular enough to obtain a majority.  It was very courageous of him! (You can write and thank him!)

Minister President Erwin Teufel of Baden-Wurttemberg, stated his opinion with the following words:  The large majority of citizens to whom religion means something, must be able to see that reflected in the constitution.  I ask those who think differently to recognize this fact.  In the preamble, the Greek and Roman civilizations are rightly named as the decisive European traditions.  To be historically truthful, then, the belief in the God of Christianity and other religions must be stated.  This does not mean that anyone who does not want to is required to confess to God or a religion.”

 

The Christian Democrats at the convention suggested a very liberal formulation taken from the Polish constitution and hoped it could also be accepted by atheists.  It says: “The values of the union consist of the values of those who believe in God as the source of truth, justice, goodness and beauty in the same way as those who do not share this belief but respect these fundamental values which have been drawn from other sources.”

 

The Lutheran church, in the face of the majority situation, did not demand a reference to God.  The Catholic church, on the other hand, is still fighting for God to be named in the preamble.  The President of the committee of the Bishop’s conference, Josef Homeyer, stated in an interview: “Whatever dark events in the history of Christianity must be spoken of and criticized: the belief in God has shaped European civilization from the beginning up to today. It is possible to deny this simple fact only by a huge ideological effort....

God was called upon a million times in Auschwitz by Jews in the gas ovens.  Respect for this suffering demands that God be written into the European constitution.  This reminder of God belongs to the dignity of Europe....

God’s name in the constitution limits the power of politicians multi-religiously.  We are speaking about a reference to God that is not against anyone; and certainly not against the non-religious liberal traditions of the Enlightenment and Humanism.  These traditions must be put in relationship to one another.  It is only in this manner that the constitution can do justice to the philosophical plural reality of Europe.  It is not sufficient to speak of “communal European values”.  This phrase must not be an artful pretext to push aside religious traditions.....  In fact, there was some progress at the convention:

·      the legal status of churches in the individual countries will now be clearly recognized.

·      In addition, the EU is open to dialogue with the churches.

·      I also see a kind of progress in that in its preamble, the constitution is defined as, “the cultural, religious and human traditions of Europe”.  That is not enough, however.  The term “Judeo-Christian tradition” must be included in the constitution, if only for the sake of enlightened human truth in the face of history.  Citizens should be able to expect such truth from politicians.

                 (Question: government leaders have the last word. Are you hoping the Chancellor will  

support your wishes?)

 

There are some encouraging signs in this direction coming from Germany.

 

The Ev. Delegate to the CSU/CDU(EAK) issued a press release on 13.06.03 which states, among other things, “The reference to God is not connected to a Christian or even Church monopoly; rather it should fundamentally protect and secure the transcendental relationship of all humans with respect to their inalienable dignity.  At the same time, it must be remembered that the political shaping of a united Europe needs the indispensable religious value bond, without which its whole cultural, humanistic and spiritual heritage would be neither  conceivable nor viable.  The EAK supports the efforts of the Christian churches in Europe that are also calling for such a reference to God.”

 

In spite of all these good arguments, President Giscard d’ Estaing did not heed them. Instead he made the suggestion that was then (many gritting their teeth) accepted:

“ Conscious that the continent of Europe is a carrier of civilization and that its citizens, who have from the beginning of humanity, settled it in phases, have developed over the centuries  the values that are the foundation for humanism: equality of all humans, liberty, pre-eminence of reason, drawing on the cultural, religious and humanistic traditions of Europe, which - alive in its inheritance - has the central position of humans and the idea of their  inviolable and inalienable rights as well as the rule of law embodied in society.......the honorable convention partners, after exchanging their good and proper form of authority, have agreed as follows........” (end of preamble; the §§ of the constitution follow).

 

 

Background

 

The following view of the activity concerning the reference to God in the preamble may seem

sharp,  too sharp to some.  One should examine them biblically-theologically, whether they are

applicable. This is how I see it:

 

1. The religion of reason

 

1.1   To refuse the formulation of the reference to God as suggested by Poland and at the

same time to expect Christians in the EU to bow to the “pre-eminence of reason” is

ideologically and biblically speaking, idolatry.   Ever since the days of the golden calf,

(Exodus 32) the Bible calls relegating God and putting something else in His, that is first place

in a list of importance, is “idolatry”. 

Paul wrote in Romans 1:21, “For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God

nor gave thanks to him!”  According to the Bible, reason is  special but still just a gift from God

to man.  We should thank our creator for it;  reason is a good gift from God, not a substitute!!

However, the preamble in fact does just that by  not  thinking the reference to God can carry

the majority but instead, gives reason “priority”.  We Christians must  fight this with all of our

strength, privately as well as through our churches.

 

1.2  The Enlightenment, and all the a-theisms that came out of it, have always taken special

pleasure in criticizing the churches in particular (Voltaire: “ecrasez l’infame!”) and the Christian

faith in general (faith seen as self-inflicted immaturity of reason).  This criticism of religion is

still in effect.  The arguments used in the preamble reveal, however, that this religion-critical a-

theism is itself a religion, in that “God” is replaced by reason as the norm for the highest goal

for human life. And they believe it! 

If  that is not a “religion of  reason”.....

 

1.3  The optimism of the 18th-century Enlightenment can be pardoned for this belief. It is  

unforgivable, however, after two World Wars, to offer this faith to a Europe that has ignored

the living God for two hundred years, placing reason on the throne in every area.  The

alternative is not to make compromises to the churches on a few paragraphs, but to name the

God on whom a million EU citizens believe and on whom they orient their personal lives.

 

1.4  Furthermore,  it must be said: giving reason such a “divine” position is philosophically and

historically unreasonable. Even the greatest European philosopher, Immanuel Kant, in his

standard  work, “Critique of Pure Reason” critically set limits to reason: that it cannot say a

anything about the existence of God; neither positively prove nor negatively deny it.  Thus, it is 

hubris and unreasonable to  put reason in place of God, an whom Kant personally believed.

Belief in God and reason are, according to Kant, not  opposites.

 

1.5  Of course it is clear that for 250 years, the Enlightenment has formed our culture and

education. However, it is new that  a  legal text will be drafted as a constitution which will be

for everyone and for the whole of Europe, that is generally binding.  Something like this is

meaningful to God!   And what  does it mean to the nations  that until now have  wanted and

still want to conduct their government and social life  “in responsibility before God”? How long

can such “religious relics” stand when Europe has forged ahead with an a-theistic constitution? 

It would function as the norm!

 

1.6  More must be said:  “Humanism” itself , as the name says, is purposefully not related to

God but to the “central position of humans” (preamble) and his ability - on first place his

reason. “Humanism” appears in the preamble twice (as subject and  adjective)  whereas the

Christian faith is not even once used as an adjective.   Instead there is a feeble “religious”.  

The word “Christian” should be avoided because the EU should not be a “Christian club”.

Would anyone be pressured by the inclusion of the Judeo-Christian view of God on which

Europe’s history was  based?   The Polish version makes allowance for the fact that there are

also free thinkers in  Europe.  It is at this point that tolerant Humanism shows how tolerant it is

when faced with real faith.

The discussion about the preamble can be reduced to the simple question of whether Europe

of the future should be characterized by tolerant Christianity (Polish version) or by intolerant

Humanism (present form of preamble)  Religion is both!

 

1.7 Looking at European history, we can recognize the following:

The Jews were always a minority, but  of high cultural influence.  Judaism played and still

plays an essential  role in Christianity itself.  Christianity without Judaism could not exist!  It is

not about “influence” (as in the case of Islam, Hinduism, etc.), rather it concerns the character

of Christianity and its cultures( Europe, America, Australia).  For example, there is the Jewish

Bible, the so-called “Old” Testament; or the 7th day as a day of rest or the idea of man being

made in God’ image with all its implications.  This is why a European constitution must speak

of the “Judeo-Christian view of God”, whether we want to or not.

In comparison, in the past centuries, the Moslems have had a much smaller influence

(mathematics, Aristotle, Moorish architecture ).  This influence was mainly cultural. 

Religious-theologically speaking, the only impulse from Islam was scholastic, through the

procurement of the whole works of the philosopher Aristotle, a Greek and no Moslem!

 

1.8  The religion of Islam

One thing is sure: if the Moslems could have their say in the conference, the reference to God

would be included immediately - and not only that!

Coming generations will wish the fathers of the European constitution had named the Judo-

Christian reference to God as formative for Europe so that it would be clear that Europe cannot

be a “house of Islam”, because it is written differently in the constitution.

Today, we are still in the phase of tolerance with Moslems in the minority.  However, through

Terrorism we are noticing the lava bubbling beneath our feet.  The next generation will fight for

their rights alongside the Moslems and the one after that for their survival in a Moslem Europe. 

No one should expect tolerance then!

The history of Islam teaches differently.  The issue of the reference to God in the preamble

today includes, among others, the question of whether Europe of the future would rather be a

“Christian club” (Turkey’s  accusation) or a “house of Islam” (strategic goal).

 

 

 

Summary

 

At present, the European constitution is pointing the way twofold:

·      it  solidifies the primacy of human reason, at the same time it rejects the priority of the Living God (spiritual argument)

·      by avoiding naming God, the Judeo-Christian God as the foundation of our European culture,  it opens the door for Islam, which is in fact an aggressive religion, to build Europe as a “house of Islam” (historical argument).  Europe will be ruined because of its purely formal and indiscriminate  idea of tolerance, of which it is so proud,  by  those who do not share this definition of tolerance but who know how to use it to reach their goals.

 

 

 

 

2. The European  political situation

 

·      parallel to the convention, there was a splitting of Europe over the war in Iraq.  Only with a lot of effort were the differences and wounds overcome by a brave and  pithy, “We must look ahead”. The remains were swept under the carpet.  In order to prevent such further damage, in future, a European foreign minister shall be appointed who would, in a similar situation in time, coordinate and represent the opinions.

·      In April 2003, the 1st  Joint Summit meeting in Athens with the state leaders and foreign ministers of the 10 countries that will be officially accepted in May 2004, also occurred parallel to the convention.  This is the largest single expansion in the almost 50 year-old history of the EU and requires a lot of strength.

 

Prayer

·      Gratitude for the process of understanding among the peoples of Europe in the past 

centuries; gratitude that Germany played such an important and positive role: gratitude 

for 58 years of peace!

·      Gratitude that the prayer warriors have gradually focused on “Europe” as a concern.  Pray for an increase in unity among the Europeans who pray.

·      Ask that God, the Lord and Jesus, His Son with the Holy Spirit will be loudly praised everywhere and all over Europe and that many will believe in Him, the Trinity and be saved.

·      Intense prayer that the “Judeo-Christian reference to God” will yet be included in the preamble.  Write sensible and wise letters to those responsible: your Member of Parliaments, your Prime Ministers, the Chancellor or Foreign Minister.

·      Prayer for the Moslems in Europe, Germany and my hometown

·      Lamentation and repentance for the way that man (Humanism) and his reason (Rationalism) are seen as absolute and put in place of God and have now been finally and clearly enthroned instead of God as the ultimate values for Europe.

·      Ask for protection against an invasion of the power of chaos in its many forms, whose goal is the destruction of everything positive in the lives of the people of Europe.

·      Worship of the triune God who is Lord over everything and everyone.

 

 

 

                                                                                    Ortwin Schweitzer

(translation - Evelyn Souan)